For the first time in two years, Michael Hubbard will be spending Thanksgiving at home, surrounded by family and a feast.
The Riverhead teen is still recovering from a gel candle explosion in May 2011 that severely burned him and lead to cardiac arrest and brain damage. Michael had been in rehab at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester County since the accident.
But since returning to Peconic Bay Medical Center Health’s Skilled Nursing Facility this spring, Michael has been steadily improving, his mother, Nancy Reyer, said. He’s gone through a growth spurt and has gained weight thanks to a new diet.
Being back home — surrounded by medical and emotional support — has given him a noticeable boost, she said.
“He looks better,” Ms. Reyer said. “He has that little look to his face … He seems to be doing really well.”
Michael — who turned 17 in August — will leave the nursing facility next week to spend Thanksgiving with family, after a worker at PBMC offered to help, Ms. Reyer said.
“Coming to Peconic Bay Medical is nothing but a godsend,” she said.
Michael was also visited Wednesday afternoon by members of the Riverhead High School Interact Club, who decorated the common room at the Skilled Nursing Facility.
“You can’t teach compassion. You kind of have to show it,” said Allison Pressler, a parent of an Interact Club member and friend of Ms. Reyer who chaperoned the trip. “I was really proud.”
The students put up turkey decorations and spent time with Michael, who smiled and laughed, Ms. Reyer said. The Interact Club — which is affiliated with the Riverhead Rotary — also made Michael an honorary member.
The club plans to come back every month to redecorate the room and spend time with their classmate, who will graduate this spring from Riverhead High School with an honorary diploma.
Ms. Reyer said returning home has been a “reality check” as the family grapples with Michael’s ongoing medical care. But efforts like the Interact Club’s, fundraising efforts to build a full-time home at Brendan House on Sound Avenue – where he is expected to live – and the level of care he gets from nurses at the center eases her mind.
“[It's] the greatest comfort knowing that everyone here loves him,” she said.